Accessibility Tools

What Is a Rotator Cuff Injury?

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder, forming a “cuff” that stabilizes the joint and keeps the end of the upper arm bone (humerus) firmly positioned in its shallow socket. Most rotator cuff injuries are caused by repetitive overhead arm movements, such as pitching a baseball, serving a tennis ball or painting a ceiling. This type of overuse can cause a muscle or tendon to gradually break down and begin to fray over time. Additionally, a partial or full rotator cuff tear can result from sudden trauma, such as a fall onto an outstretched arm.

What are the symptoms of a rotator cuff injury?

A rotator cuff injury can cause a dull ache in the shoulder, which may travel down the length of the arm and worsen when lying on the affected side of the body. The pain may be accompanied by arm muscle weakness that interferes with daily activities, such as reaching backward for a seatbelt. A full muscle or tendon tear may also cause a “snapping” sensation when it occurs, followed by severe pain.

How is a rotator cuff injury treated?

In many cases, a rotator cuff injury can be treated without surgery. Some potentially effective options include rest and ice applications followed by physical therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroid injections, if needed. The goal of conservative treatment is to provide sufficient pain relief to allow for participation in physical activities, which in turn can help restore muscle strength in the affected shoulder and arm. Because a full rotator cuff tear will not heal on its own, surgical repair may be considered for an active patient who regularly performs overhead arm movements during work or sport.

The experienced shoulder specialists at Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, Texas, provide a full range of treatments – both conservative and surgical – for rotator cuff injuries. When appropriate, our board-certified and double-board-certified surgeons perform arthroscopic rotator cuff repairs as well as shoulder stabilization procedures and minimally invasive shoulder replacements.

If you’d like to explore your treatment options for a rotator cuff injury with a physician at Advanced Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine of Houston, TX, contact us to schedule an appointment today.